By Andrew Boktor
I am a new immigrant. I moved to the USA from Egypt several months ago, and I am still adjusting to my new American life. Everything is different: the language, the alphabet, the customs, and the culture are all new to me.
When I started school at Hamden High, my classmates asked me many questions about my home country. “Do you live inside the pyramids?” Believe it or not, someone really asked me this. (The answer is no. Pyramids are historical cemeteries, and no one lives inside historical monuments.) Egypt has been in the in the news often in the last few months, and there is a lot of ignorance and misunderstanding among my American peers about Egypt and its current political situation. Why should you care about what is happening in Egypt? It is important to be informed about the world outside the USA, and Egypt is a long-time American ally. Its geographical, economical, and cultural position makes it a key player in Middle East diplomacy—something Americans should be very interested in. I’ll discuss these in detail later, but in order to understand Egypt’s current situation, it is crucial to understand its history.
Egypt was been ruled by pharaohs for thousands of years, and it became a great and wealthy empire. After the time of the pharaohs, many empires fought for control of my country: think of Egypt like a cake. Every strong country wants its own piece of this cake. So France conquered Egypt after turkey (Othmanians) had conquered Egypt. After France, Great Britain conquered and ruled Egypt about seventy years. Even so, after hundreds years of weakness, Egypt still held its position as the dominant country in the Middle East.
Since Egypt was a kingdom when Great Britain conquered Egypt, Egyptians were suffering from Britain military violence on one side and from a king’s dictatorship on the other. On July 23rd in 1952, a major event changed the entire situation. There were secret group called “free officers movement.“ They were hiding inside the armed forces. This group decided to overthrow the government with a military coup. They came out with their weapons and they surrounded the king’s palace. They gained control of all media channels and announced that they kicked the king out of Egypt. The people rejoiced: Egyptians got rid of a kingdom and the British military in one day, and now Egypt was a republic with a president. The first president was Mohamed Naguib, one of the key players in the coup. The second president was Gamal Abd-ELnaser . During his time in office, Egypt got involved in a war with Israel. It was June 5, 1967 when Egypt lost its armed forces in this war. Israel took Sinai, a large part of Egypt’s territory. Egypt was terribly shocked. At the time, Egyptians started to forget the triumphant revolution and started to focus on this new horrible disaster. After Gamal Abd-Elnaser’s death, Mohamed Anwar EL-Sadat, also from the free officers movement, came to power. He fought Israel again, and regained Sinai for Egypt on October 6 , 1973 . Egyptians considered him as a hero for this, but he began a new era of dictatorship. He freed Muslim extremists and foolishly asked them to help him to beat his political enemies. His strategy backfired, and eventually Muslim extremists killed him in public while Egyptians watched in the middle of October’s war celebration.
El-Sadat’s vice president Mohamed Hosny Mubarak then became president. The beginning of his presidency was promising. He vowed not to be a president for more than two terms, for maximum eight years, but ended up ruling Egypt for thirty years as a dictator. Under his rule, Egypt’s economy plummeted. There was neither good education nor health care. Nothing was acceptable. And even worse, the Egyptian peopled did not have the freedom to complain. Mubarak had a violent gang of enforcers that he rewarded with personal benefits, and even the police were aggressive with Mubarak’s political enemies. After thirty years of this political stress, the Egyptian people witnessed the revolution in nearby Tunis in 2011. Egypt’s youth had finally had enough and thought “why are we afraid to speak out about the problems with our government? “ Egyptian youth organized demonstrations across the whole country. They started this movement in Wednesday January 25, 2011. On this day, the youth started to oppose the police. By Friday January 28, 2011, known in Egypt as “Black Friday “, the fights between youth and police reached its maximum; it became war in the streets. Most of the police stations were broken down that day. After 5 pm, the entire country was out of control. There was no police in the streets at all. Then all the youth had a strike in El-Tahrir square, the biggest square in the capital. And the strikes extended to all the squares across the country. Mubarak came out of his silence at 1 am and talked to the youth, but said nothing new. He changed the government (the whole ministries). After some days of the strike, he gave another emotional speech. Many people came back to stand on his side. But the day after was horrible. In another big war in El-Tahrir square, many young people died. On the eighteenth day of the strikes, the youth moved to surround the republic palace. So within eighteen days of the youth strike starting on January 25, 2011, Mubarak left the presidency. He travelled to resort on the Egyptian red sea. The same day, his vice president Omar Soliman announced that Mubarak set “the supreme council of the armed forces “ to rule Egypt.
And now the story is just beginning. What will happen to this great country with no ruler? In my next article, I will discuss what happened with “the supreme council of the armed forces “. What were the factors that led to this incredible mess? What is the relationship between the different political groups involved? As you’ll see in my next article, each will try to use their followers and their powers to get biggest possible piece of Egypt’s cake.